Aquino: Don’t blame me for flight delays
It has come to his attention, President Benigno Aquino III said on Friday, that he has apparently become the “most convenient excuse” for flight delays at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (Naia).
The President begs to disagree.
“It takes only around 10 minutes of stopping air traffic to give way to presidential flights,” Mr. Aquino said at the 119th General Meeting of the Semiconductor and Electronics Industries in the Philippines (Seipi).
“You know, often I’m told that the reason for delays…It is announced on the planes that I am either landing or taking off. I’m the most convenient excuse because nobody can ask me if that really happened but the records are present,” President Aquino said.
He stressed that it takes only a maximum of 15 minutes “from the time I enter the plane and the door is closed to our leaving the area.”
“It is no longer the one-hour requirement that existed previously, and we strive to make that even less. We want to disrupt as little as possible. So 15 [minutes] is the average, but I think we’ve managed 10 [minutes] and below from different times, when I go around the country or I have to leave the country,” the President said.
For good measure, Mr. Aquino announced that he would not be the cause of any delay when he goes to Malaysia next month for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) Summit.
The President took the opportunity to defend himself when Elmer Lapeña of Excelitas Technologies and Seipi board member told him that while it was now faster to go through immigration and customs, air traffic continues to be a bane.
A source from the Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA) confirmed that indeed, President Aquino had given a directive “not to disturb airport operations” when there were presidential movements.
“In fairness to the President, he did give that directive. The President does not like to disturb airport operations unlike previous presidents,” said the source, an MIAA official who requested anonymity for lack of authority to discuss security protocols on presidential movements.
The source added that when the President flew to Casiguran town in Aurora province last Thursday to inspect the damage brought by Typhoon “Lando,” air traffic at Naia was halted for “less than 10 minutes.”
That is the norm for President Aquino’s provincial sorties, the source said.
When the President leaves for a foreign trip, commercial flights continue while he delivers his departure speech.
The Presidential Security Group (PSG) at the air traffic control tower is informed when the President has finished his speech and he starts moving to the aircraft, the source said. “That is the only time when the commercial flights are stopped to give way to the presidential aircraft,” the source said.
Lapeña also asked the President if plans to relocate to Clark International Airport and build a high-speed train to connect to the airport would push through.
The President replied that the commercial viability of a high-speed railway system “is still under question.”
He said the $400-million loan taken out by government for the railway system to be built by a Chinese company had become “due and demandable.” He added that there was only “about a kilometer’s worth of columns” built in Malolos, Bulacan, out of the $400-million concessionary loan.
The President revealed an ongoing study to relocate Naia, “perhaps somewhere near Manila Bay that would be good for not just five years or so or even 10 years.”
“Perhaps it’s also a symptom of the growth in our tourism market,” Mr. Aquino said.
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